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DNA and Information

(Part 1 of 3)


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Short Answer:

The basic starting point: DNA is a chemical. The DNA molecule's arrangement or sequence of chemical subunits is the basis for holding a code and this in turn is what contains information. DNA molecules in part make up the structures we call chromosomes. All the information for an entire organism, contained in the chromosomes, is called the genome. Information in the genome directs—by way of mechanistic material processes—the physical construction of what we are in bodily form.

Taking a moment to consider what is the cause of life's information is instructive. For example: "The efficient cause of something is that by which it comes to be. The instrumental cause is that through which it comes to be. And the material cause is that out of which it is made. Now material and instrumental causes do not necessarily resemble their effects but efficient causes do. For example, the painting does not resemble the artist's paint brush, but it does resemble the artist's mind. The reason is because the brush is only the instrumental cause, whereas the artist is the efficient cause." (quotation from Geisler & Saleeb, page 138, see our booklist reference to their book: Answering Islam). When we think of DNA, we may find ourselves focusing on the material and instrumental and not the efficient cause of information. Biologists often explain the result of genetic information in terms of regulating protein production which is more like the painting and not the artist's mind! Here the view is narrowed to the material and instrumental. But there is more to consider!

More than making biological structures, biological information channels the flow of materials and energy throughout our life span. Aside from making the components of cell, tissue, and body structures (for example, by making protein molecules), information embodies the 'plan' or 'blueprint' that establishes how life's unique organisms are to be assembled and function. Yet no one has identified where this information comes from.

The often cited cause is that mutations — externally caused chance alterations in the genetic code — make for change and thus cause new information. And earlier we addressed this from a probabilistic perspective. That potentially explains some slow appearance and genomic changes over time. Certainly, with events where life forms appear rapidly, there must also be a rapid delivery of information. There is no mechanistic model, computer or otherwise, that comes close to telling us how all that information was created and captured in life systems — which has us reflect back on what is the efficient cause. No one seems to be doing that directly, but scientists talk around the problem perhaps in hopes that some bright light will one day illuminate a material-based answer. That approach would be consistent with the standard evolution theory based on a random process and natural selection. But the material evidence reveals remarkable differences in the information base held by various organisms ...

Although humans have 30 times the DNA of some insects, there are insects that have more than double the DNA in humans. The amount of DNA is not a reliable measure of complexity because not all the DNA may have to do with complexity; part of a genome may be just many repeats of the same section. Spetner (NBC) Page 28

The trend in science is generally to document what's there. The Human Genome Project essentially is a large cataloging of genetic information. From that new drugs or therapies may come, but all this is based on understanding what is contained within that base of information, not what brought it into existence. And tomorrow the sequences of information in the human genome will certainly bring us incredible surprises. Also, be aware, so much of what was initially cataloged appeared to be a large reservoir of nonsense or 'junk DNA.' This DNA is also called non-coding DNA. In recent years, researchers are finding more and more that 'junk DNA' is not functionless. In fact, what was once called the leftover product of prior evolution (thus a byproduct with no function) we see important roles, increased complexity and functional sequences of DNA code.

To date, science continues to create catalogs for the DNA in many biological species to document what is there ... BUT not yet discovering how all that information might have been pulled together in the first place. Yes, we know, the assumption as always is evolution did it. Well, what science will say tomorrow may bring some clarity on that, but will clarity be couched in terms of evolution or will the discoveries continue to pull back the shutters to reveal an entirely new view!

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We suggested in 1984 that the origin-of-life problem is fundamentally a problem of information, but this perception is not unique to us. In his Information And The Origin Of Life (1990) Bernd-Olaf Kuppers says, "The problem of the origin of life is clearly basically equivalent to the problem of the origin of biological information." Bradley and Thaxton (CH) Page 190

Bradley and Thaxton recall that information theory starts with the work of Claude Shannon and fellow engineers as the Bell Telephone Laboratories in the 1940's. This work measures information by mathematics, but the concept is also applicable to human language, Morse-code based messages, and the genetic transmission of information. In the case of genetics the messages are coded in the base sequences (the nucleic acid units of DNA) that serve like letters in an alphabet that makes written (recorded) language possible.

This structural identity is the basis for the application of information theory to biology. As Hubert P. Yockey notes in the Journal Of Theoretical Biology, "The sequence hypothesis applies directly to the protein and the genetic text as well as to written language and therefore the treatment is mathematically identical." Bradley and Thaxton (CH) Page 205

Now the existence of information, its structure, and transmission can be expressed not only in terms of passing along a message but also can be characterized in terms of a source for an origin.

This development is highly significant for the modern origin-of-life discussion and is an observation in the present that proponents of an intelligent origin of life use as a key to the past. In the case of written messages, we have experience that they have an intelligent cause. We use analogical reasoning to conclude that the remarkable information sequences in DNA also had an intelligent source. On the basis of analogy, then, we infer an agent with intelligence that is similar to human intelligence. Since DNA is an essential molecular component of every form of life we know, we likewise conclude that life on earth had an intelligent cause. Bradley and Thaxton (CH) Page 206

And remember time and context ... the cell diagram below is as about as sophisticated a view on cellular complexity that humanity had just past Darwin's time. And that view had very little to show for knowing exactly to what extent a single cell contained information. Years later we'd be shocked to learn that all the information in the entire genetic code was held within each cell of an entire organism—millions and trillions of copies—even when the cells themselves differed in structure and function. The presence of information is a common denominator throughout all biological life forms. We expand on this remarkable information system in the 'Consider This' section in Part 2 (see link below).

figure 3 cell

A most significant text that is a must read for all readers. Follow the scientific explorations and the conclusions that tell why DNA is more than a molecule, but IS information by design and beyond mere chance product of an abiotic origin. Read the book for yourself (to consider obtaining a copy click on the image below):

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Programming of Life video
We recommend watching the following video from yet another source that addresses the complexity of information in DNA. Click on the play button below to watch this video here!

The original source is found at the web site on Programming of Life. Their site provides the video in Flash format ... and we provide viewing of the HTML version for our WindowView visitors!

Not By Chance

Consider This - Feature Article Part 2

Remarkable Dimensions to Life's Information Storage, etc..

Generally, at this point in our feature articles we follow with a more detailed discussion. In this case, the 'Consider This' portion is a bit longer than typically found in other articles. So, to access this special 'Consider This' section ... simply click here!

Excerpts and links to Feature Articles:

Traditional approaches that fail to take account of new findings in molecular cell biology cannot survive the present day. Materialistic explanations for the origin of information have been systematically eliminated over the past forty years. Has origin-of-life research brought us to the brink of a new scientific revolution?: - Dr. Stephen Meyer on DNA and Information

Quotations from "The Creation Hypothesis" (CH) edited by J. P. Moreland are used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be used without permission from InterVarsity Press.

Quotations from "Not By Chance" (NBC) written by L. Spetner, are used by permission granted by Dr. Lee Spetner.

Writer / Editor: Dr. T. Peterson, Director,

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References of Interest

Life's Origins Edge of Evolution How Blind is the Watchmaker Case Against Accident Matter of Days Mystery of Lifes Origin Science of God Evolution Theory Crisis What Darwin Didn't Know Doubts Design Darwin Strikes Back Priviledge Planet Darwins God Billions Missing of Links
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